March Newsletter – 27.03.2023


Behre Dolbear are Silver Sponsors for the Asia Mining Club Spring Cocktail

Date            28 Mar 2023 (Tuesday)
Time            6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue          Popinjays, Rooftop, The Murray Hotel, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong or contact Club Secretary at or +852-9191-0630.
  • Adani Group: Chhattisgarh tribes’ year-long protest against tycoon’s coal mine
  • DR Congo wants to revise 2008 mining agreement with China
  • Billionaire mining tycoon in India fights to clear Vedanta’s debt
  • Barrick Gold’s Kibali mine upholds Tier One status
  • Countries’ reporting fails to tell full story of mercury pollution
  • Western Copper attracts Mitsubishi’s backing for Yukon copper project
  • Par panel calls for steps to ease doing business to attract investment in mining sector
  • Australia can Rival China in Supplying Critical Minerals for Renewables Sector

Adani Group: Chhattisgarh tribes’ year-long protest against tycoon’s coal mine

Deep in the jungles of central India, forest-dwelling tribes are marking the one-year anniversary of a continuous agitation against a new coal mine to be developed by the Adani Group. In recent months, they’ve received a show of support from high-profile politicians and celebrity activists. But in this David vs Goliath battle, a victory for the tribes will be hard won.

The village of Hariharpur in the state of Chhattisgarh stands on the precipice of two discordant worlds. To its east, the myriad greys of the decade-old Parsa East Kete Basan (PEKB) open cast coal mine, operated by the Adani Group, stretch as far as the eye can see. To the other side of this hamlet of a few scattered homes, lies the sprawling expanse of the Hasdeo forest, under which billions of tons of power grade coal still rests unexplored.

These woods are said to be the largest contiguous stretch of dense forestland in central India, spanning 170,000 hectares or 1700 sq km (65.6 sq miles) and often called the “lungs of Chhattisgarh”. They are also home to the proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve.

Tribal villagers here have strenuously opposed the proposed opening of the new coal mine for over a decade. But despite staunch resistance and warnings from the government’s own forest research agency of a negative impact on the local habitat and forest ecology, final clearances for the mine were granted last year, triggering an indefinite agitation that’s gone on every day since 2 March 2022.

Interestingly, it is the Congress-led Chhattisgarh government, which has time and again taken on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for favouring the Adani group, which has given this project the go-ahead.

DR Congo wants to revise 2008 mining agreement with China

President Felix Tshisekedi on Saturday spoke out in favour of revising the mining contract concluded in 2008 with China, signed by his predecessor Joseph Kabila, in order to “guarantee the interests” of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an official source said on Saturday.

Former DRC President Kabila (2001-2019) negotiated a deal in 2008 which saw Congolese cobalt and copper exchanged for infrastructure construction by a Chinese consortium. The original deal was worth $9 billion but was then renegotiated to $6 billion under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). To date, nearly $2.74 billion has been disbursed by the Chinese party, mostly in the form of investments.

In mid-February, the DRC’s General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) estimated in a study that there was, in this collaboration agreement, a “significant financial imbalance to the detriment of the DRC between the advantages granted to the Chinese party and the commitments it is responsible for as well as the gains expected by the Congolese party”.

In its conclusions, the IGF puts forward an amount of “76 billion in gains for the Chinese party against 3 billion in infrastructure for the DRC”.

At the council of ministers meeting held on Friday, President Tshisekedi “evoked the imperative need to revisit the contracts of this convention in the sense of a rebalancing of the advantages aimed at guaranteeing the interests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the exploitation of Sicomines”, the Chinese-Congolese company created for the occasion, Culture Minister Catherine Kathungu Furaha said in an account on state television RTNC.

Billionaire mining tycoon in India fights to clear Vedanta’s debt

For decades, Anil Agarwal cultivated a reputation as one of India’s great survivors. Starting as a scrap metal dealer, the billionaire magnate built a mining conglomerate to rival any other, weathering cash crunches, government friction and disputes with Indigenous people over expansion plans.

But in recent months, Agarwal has faced one of his toughest acts yet. The tycoon’s Vedanta Resources Ltd. has close to $2 billion of bonds to settle in 2024 — half of which is due in January. Short of that, his London-headquartered company risks getting cut deeper into junk and losing crucial access to funding. That’s bad news for one of India’s richest men, who has long dreamed of competing against Glencore Plc and BHP Billiton as the world’s dominant natural resources supplier.

Vedanta’s quest to raise cash comes during a rocky time for India’s business elite. Highly leveraged conglomerates are under increased scrutiny after a short seller accused Gautam Adani, once Asia’s richest person, of fraud across his infrastructure empire.

Though Vedanta’s debt pile is much smaller, the company’s bonds are rated near the lowest rung of gradings, raising the stakes for one of India’s largest miners to find a way out of the abyss. Investors are concerned about Vedanta’s ability to tap funds from its subsidiaries. Multiple dividends over the past year have depleted cash reserves, a troubling development amid high global interest rates and volatile commodity prices.

Barrick Gold’s Kibali mine upholds Tier One status

The Tier One production profile of Barrick Gold’s (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD) Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been extended for the fourth consecutive year to 2033, as exploration more than replaced the gold that was mined in 2022.

A Tier One gold asset is an asset with a reserve potential to deliver a minimum 10-year life, annual production of at least 500,000 ounces of gold and total cash costs per ounce over the mine life that are in the lower half of the industry cost curve.

Talking to the media over the weekend, Barrick’s chief executive Mark Bristow said that Kibali’s reserves have grown to a level equivalent to that in the original 2010 feasibility study, despite producing more than 6.4 million ounces of gold since commissioning.

As of 2022, the mine’s total reserves were 97 million tonnes grading 3.26 gm/t for total contained ounces of 10.2 Moz.

Countries’ reporting fails to tell full story of mercury pollution

Small-scale gold mining in Madagascar.

A recent study of baseline mercury emission estimates by artisanal gold mining reported by 25 countries—many in developing African, South American and Asian nations—found that these estimates rarely provide enough information to tell whether shifts in the rate from one year to the next were the result of actual change or data uncertainty.

Key variables—like how the country determines the amount of its gold production—can result in vastly different baseline estimates. Yet, countries often don’t report this range of possible estimates.

According to the study, about 15 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners around the world risk their lives every day facing hazardous working conditions that include constant exposure to mercury—a potent neurotoxin.

Mercury vapours cause debilitating effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal.

The hazardous gold mining process that employs mercury also accounts for roughly 40% of all man-made mercury emissions, making it the largest source of this type of pollution, UN data show.

“To make effective and impactful mercury interventions and policies, you must first make sure you have the baseline emission estimate right,” Kathleen M. Smits, co-author of the new study analyzing the issue, said in a media statement. “Providing more transparency in their reporting would help with that.”

Western Copper attracts Mitsubishi’s backing for Yukon copper project

Canadian firm Western Copper and Gold on Friday announced a strategic equity investment by Japanese group Mitsubishi Materials to advance the Casino project, in the Yukon Territory.

Casino is a copper, gold, molybdenum and silver deposit, about 300 km from Whitehorse. The company is currently preparing to re-enter the Yukon’s environmental assessment process for Casino.

A 2022 feasibility study confirmed the robust nature of the Casino project, which will require C$3.62-billion to build a mine that will operate for 27 years.

Rio Tinto is already a strategic investor in Western Copper. Under the Mitsubishi agreement, the Japanese firm would acquire shares representing 5% of Western’s issued and outstanding shares, on an undiluted basis at C$2.63 a share.

Par panel calls for steps to ease doing business to attract investment in mining sector

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has suggested that factors like ease of doing business and increase in competitiveness should be looked into in a bid to boost a favourable investment environment for the mining sector. The committee also acknowledged the efforts of the Ministry of Mines to accommodate the private sector to help the mining sector reach new heights.

“The Committee has been given to understand that the amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation)Act, 1957 in 2015 and in 2021 has been aimed at increasing the production of minerals and time-bound operationalisation of mines, maintaining continuity in mining operations even after a change of lessee and increasing the pace of exploration and auctioning of mineral resources,” the Standing Committee on Coal, Mines and Steel said in its recent report.

These amendments have resulted in the enhancement of mineral production across the spectrum and will be a major boost to many industries which are primarily dependent upon key raw materials provided by the mining sector.

Australia can Rival China in Supplying Critical Minerals for Renewables Sector

All the unprocessed lithium from Australia is now refined in China

Australia can become a potential supply chain partner for the global renewables sector and an alternative to China, a report by think tank Climate Energy Finance (CEF) has said.

Australia houses minerals critical to renewable energy technologies in abundance and is the leading producer of unprocessed lithium. The country produces 79% of the world’s hard rock lithium, with its mineral exports projected to reach $16 billion in 2023.

The country is the third largest exporter of cobalt and stands fourth in exporting mined copper, nickel, and rare earths.

Despite the massive critical mineral availability with one of the largest bulk minerals mining industries, Australia lags in adding domestic value to the energy transition materials sector, states the report.

But currently, Australia is pursuing the zero value-add dig-and-ship model under which most mineral excavated by the companies like Rio Tinto, BHP, and Woodside is exported to China for refining onshore.